I've been thinking about this all weekend long. Last night I caused a bit of controversy, even getting onto Techmeme http://www.techmeme.com/110904/p4#a110904p4 because I asked Google to remove me from the suggested user list. Google+ exec said he was surprised by my post, but complied and I no longer am on that list.
I was actually surprised by the emotion that poured back in reaction. I knew there was some there, but didn't know how deep the emotion was. Why did I know it? Because I hate Twitter's suggested user list. I had been put on something I hated.
It seems that Google didn't quite understand the hate of these things. I think hatred of Klout and other scoring systems is also bubbling under the surface, too. Every once in a while I see a post or comment that shows that there's a loaded powder keg of emotion waiting to boil out in conversations.
Heck, I didn't even understand the hate of the suggested user list and I'm pretty advanced on understanding of these things, having talked to hundreds of people about them over the past few years since Twitter made that list.
So, for the past day or two I've been asking myself "what's better than a suggested user list?" Also, "how would I build a new user onboarding system that would get better retention of new users?"
New users are folks like my dad.
He has some attributes:
1. He has no idea who to follow. If you force him to, he'll follow people he already is familiar with, like celebrities, family members, or personal friends.
2. He probably has some idea of topics he'd like to know about, but he already probably has a forum, or a place to go, to discuss those things.
3. He has probably been told to join Google+ by someone (either media, like during the Superbowl, or by a friend or family member). That will color his first expectations (his family members will probably say "come here and you'll see more photos of the kids" and the media will probably say something like "follow your favorite football players and behind the scenes videos here").
4. He probably doesn't know how to find or discover other people or brands that might make his experience better.
So, does a suggested user list really help someone like my dad? Oh, yes, a bit. It gives him popular people he might have heard about to follow. That does help him out.
But, is it the BEST way to help him out?
"OK, smartypants Scoble, how would you do it?"
I'd have a group of community managers pick one post each a day and show that to my dad.
Put the focus where it should be: on the content that people can discover here.
Why don't we have a list of recent great posts in tech, politics, photography, science, education, entertainment, music, media, economics, etc?
Why do we need to focus so much on people?
There are reasons why this focus on people really sucks too for Google to do:
1. Facebook owns people. If Google thinks they are gonna be able to change that in any real way they are smoking some good dope over on the GooglePlex. Copying Facebook is going to position Google+ as something lesser than Facebook. Not good.
2. Twitter did the suggested user list first amongst the big services and did it halfassed. So, copying Twitter is going to position Google+ as something lesser than Twitter. Not good either.
3. By focusing on content Google's staff can reward behavior it wants to see here. That is a very useful "stick" to use in community management. Does it want us to share more videos? Then put more videos on the "post of the day" lists. Does it want us to write more helpful content? Then post more helpful posts on "post of the day" lists. Right now the suggested user lists just tell us to focus on being more popular. Not really good memes to feed a community.
Now, this won't remove all the controversy. Especially if more popular posts get ignored on a regular basis (which will bring into question whether the Google+ team is biased) but if they have a philosophy and mission that's written down they probably can explain away most of that stuff.
What do you think? Wouldn't a list of "posts of the day" be far better for new users to see than a list of mostly celebrities or folks who were already popular on Twitter?
In fact, that's what I'm going to do over the next month. I'm going to focus less on my lists of people and more on finding great posts to share with you.
not just for android or iOS (though it will have to built into each app since Apple doesn't let you change the default keyboard) but think about wearable, game consoles or countless other ways that might need a keyboard/type interface. let's break free of the typewriter mentality.
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So many friends and family have resisted jumping into Google+. I've been really surprised how resistant they've all been. But these strategies really should work for Google. I wish them the best. I just hope that the best product wins here (G+ IMHO).
longest post title ever
First, let me be very positive and tell you a few reasons why I like seeing happy comments of affirmation like "Great!", "Love it", "Cool", etc etc. I'll start with the simple reasons and then get into a deeper sense of experiencing the world around us.
So, on a basic level, I simply like seeing people's avatars - their faces. This is important and nice to me. We are humans, and we like to see faces. Incidentally, this is generally why face-avatars are more appealing than cartoons or symbols.
Plus, I know that they took a little extra time in addition to the +1. I think most of my new and upcoming friends here on Google+ are not photographers, so they just have a simple and joyous reaction to it. They give nice feedback in a simple, quick manner.
This all stems from an increasing complaint I see from some other photographers that complain about "inane" comments, wishing "these people" would just +1 and move on. I find this to be a very elitist and condescending attitude. The thing is that photographers have been someone "poisoned" by Flickr. And here is why…
Flickr is great in that it allows photographers to comment on the work of other photographers in a thoughtful, critical manner (sometimes, hehe). So, we get used to a certain level of feedback from other people that have strong opinions on composition, color, light, line, shape, contrast, and these sorts of things. But, for the last five years, I've been sharing a new photo every day on http://www.StuckInCustoms.com and my main target has always been non-photographers. And the simple truth is that they just respond "differently". It's not better or worse… just different. Each of them, no doubt, has a deep level of expertise in various other subjects, and if I were to post something about Austria-Hungary, for example, they would probably respond with a paragraph of helpful datapoints.
So I'm very defensive of all the nice people that take the time to comment, re-share, and become part of the community. If you don't like the way people choose to express themselves in Google+, or generally disagree with the comments, then there is no need to get all upset… just uncircle me and save yourself some frustration.
Now, another way to look at it, if you'd like to alter your perspective, is to consider the expansion of the photography audience. Flickr was also poisonous in that it was just photographers commenting on other photographers in a circle of mutual-mental-masturbation. The bad part is that every photographer comes with their own baggage (I know I do), and they bring that baggage into the comments. So, it's a bit like being an oil painter and only hanging your work in a gallery that other oil painters frequent. You'll have interesting discussions, but you'll also hear a lot of talk of what merchants in Arles are producing the best yellow dye.
With Google+, you find a lot of non-photographers. And this is of course the BEST audience for photographers, because they just simply want to see beautiful things in their life. They can sense beauty, and they don't have to have an art-school degree to like something and sense a deep beauty. And every non-photographer has a wonderfully unique life of experiencing beauty and a very personal history of joy, trauma, and the unique events that make them different. So that means that one photo may really speak to one person… perhaps there is a bit of mystery that their imagination fills in… and it becomes very special to them… and, having different neurons fire, they simply don't know what to say but, "Wow."
When I watch Olympic diving and I see some skinny Scandinavian do four flips and a twist and make ZERO splash, I just stare at the TV and say, "Wow." Or, maybe I see a ballet and the dancer makes a little move that I just can't comprehend. I may turn to a friend and say, "Amazing." There are arts and things well beyond me that I can barely grasp, and words fail.
Anyway, I'll end this little post with a story about the photo below, since we can all probably agree that beauty exists and we all experience it differently. To me, this fisherman and his cormorant bird are beautiful. To the fisherman, maybe the fish he will soon catch is beautiful. To the fish, maybe the Li River is beautiful. All of these truths can be held together in delicate concert, and this is why I love capturing it.
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